by James Billot
Friday, 29
July 2022
News
11:49

Wikipedia takes cue from White House and re-defines ‘recession’

Any mention of two negative consecutive quarters has now been scrubbed
by James Billot

Wikipedia has changed the definition of ‘recession’ and locked the page from further edits. These changes were made during the week that the White House proposed a re-definition of recession to mean something other than two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.

Until July 11, the world’s largest online encyclopedia included in its definition of a recession ‘two negative consecutive quarters of growth’ with users free to make alterations:

Screengrab from July 11

But as of July 25 any mention of ‘two negative consecutive quarters of GDP growth’ was removed from this section. A Wikipedia administrator then froze the edit feature, blaming a ‘persistent addition of unsourced or poorly sourced content,’ with a warning that the page may have been ‘affected by a current event’. For a period of time, the new definition was locked in: 

Wikipedia’s edit history shows that, up until July 27, users were making significant changes to the definition of recession with any mention of two consecutive quarters of negative growth scrubbed from the page.

In a now-deleted section, one Wikipedia user writes that the definition was change to reflect the ‘change in posture and thefinition [sic] at the United States since the White House’s experts are expanding the meaning of it’.

These changes were made during the week that the White House published a blog querying the existing definition of a recession. ‘Two consecutive quarters of falling GDP,’ the editorial stated, ‘is neither the official definition nor the way economists evaluate the state of the business cycle…’. Full text below:

What is a recession? While some maintain that two consecutive quarters of falling real GDP constitute a recession, that is neither the official definition nor the way economists evaluate the state of the business cycle. Instead, both official determinations of recessions and economists’ assessment of economic activity are based on a holistic look at the data—including the labor market, consumer and business spending, industrial production, and incomes. Based on these data, it is unlikely that the decline in GDP in the first quarter of this year—even if followed by another GDP decline in the second quarter—indicates a recession.
- White House

This editorial was published exactly one week before US GDP figures were published. In what may have been in anticipation of the publication of the figures, the commerce department announced on Thursday that the US economy shrank over the last three months, marking two consecutive quarters of negative growth. 

White House officials have tried to limit discussions about a recession, suggesting that many parts of the economy remain strong. Earlier this week President Joe Biden responded to the figures by claiming that there had been the “strongest rebound in American manufacturing in over three decades” before adding that “it doesn’t sound like a recession to me” after the GDP figures were published.

It was, however, Joe Biden in 2020 who tweeted: “I helped pull this country out of a recession before — and, as president, I’ll do it again.”

In an interview with UnHerd last year, Wikipedia co-creator Larry Sanger warned that he no longer trusted the website he created. He said that on key issues, Wikipedia was “simply mouthing” the view of the global establishment:

If you look at the articles that Wikipedia has, you can just see how they are simply mouthing the view of the World Economic Council or World Economic Forum, and the World Health Organisation, the CDC and various other establishment mouthpieces like Fauci — they take their cues from them…There’s a global enforcement of a certain point of view, which is amazing to me as a libertarian, or a liberty-loving conservative.
- Larry Sanger, UnHerd

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Terry M
Terry M
21 days ago

Wikipedia also just changed the title of Orwell’s “1984” to “True Democracy”

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
21 days ago
Reply to  Terry M

It should be called “wickedpedia” a more correct interpretation of what used to be a service dedicated to honest and not dishonest encyclopedic information.

Last edited 21 days ago by Raymond Inauen
David Yetter
David Yetter
21 days ago
Reply to  Terry M

And remember, we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

Jon P
Jon P
19 days ago
Reply to  Terry M

How many consecutive quarters of negative growth am I holding up, Winston?

cynthia callahan
cynthia callahan
18 days ago
Reply to  Terry M

Wokipedia. I told my high school students that ‘Wikipedia is not a source.”, for research. Read if you must but, follow the links to real sources. This was before ‘woke’ entered the lexicon.

Last edited 18 days ago by cynthia callahan
George Christoforou
George Christoforou
18 days ago
Reply to  Terry M

A recession has now been redefined as Biden falling off his bike 2 months in a row.
And, Inflation has been redefined as “a transition”
And Biden’s mistakes have been redefined as “Putin price hike”
There has been a long history of political newspeak. But for the first time it has been used in the field of economics which is based on mathematical models of the economy. ie 2+2=5

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
21 days ago

Alas, poor Wiki, I used it well. But not any more. Larry Sanger says it all

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
21 days ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

I bitterly regret the fact that I once donated to an organization that I now call Wokeipedia.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
21 days ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I also am guilty of this.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
21 days ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I’m not sure I regret donating in the past – it was a worthy enterprise at the time … but now I find myself rejecting all their requests for additional donations.
For the same reasons as above and because overbearing moderators deleted an article I was writing on a victorian jeweller (hardly politically controversial, but they didn’t like my unfinished draft at the time)

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
21 days ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Me also

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
21 days ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Ditto here but like Andrew below I think it was a worthy cause at the time.

Last edited 21 days ago by Doug Pingel
Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
21 days ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Besides no longer donating, how can we communicate to them our displeasure?

jim peden
jim peden
20 days ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

Back in late 2021 they asked me for a donation (I’d previously donated). I declined as I felt the publication had become ‘woke’ and biased.
I corresponded with someone at [email protected] in case you’d like to complain.

Bill Dickens
Bill Dickens
18 days ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

I gave up on NPR around 2016 and showed my displeasure at their increasing bias and craziness by changing my automatic contributions to 1c per month. (They didn’t provide an online option to cancel but there was no lower limit on the donation.) This went on for months and the thought of the processing surcharges gave me some satisfaction. Eventually a minion called and ask whether I wanted to cancel.
So start a campaign to donate to Wikipedia one cent at a time?

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
21 days ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

I still use Wikipedia on a daily basis as an invaluable resource. Though it has its faults, it seems as good as it ever was. I find most information on the Internet to be unreliable, but Wikipedia is a bright exception.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
19 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

I think it depends what you’re looking for; if it is in anyway politically or culturally contentious, I would be very wary of anything but the most trusted sources. The fact that there are people who are allowed to edit and people who are not could mean that they are keeping out all the “crazies”, or it could mean that they are ensuring only people who toe the accepted line are allowed in. What I find concerning about the present issue is this is the sort of thing that I would have trusted Wikipedia with in the past, a straightforward definition. Now I shall have to consider just how much has become contentious which before was accepted by almost everyone (the “crazies” excepted).

Jim R
Jim R
21 days ago

Well they changed the definition of ‘vaccine’ so they could call the mRNA gene therapy a vaccine and pretend it was something safe and tested. I expect this is now standard operating procedure. But if none of us can ever agree on what words mean, what hope do we have of communicating? This Tower of Babel will grow no higher, that’s for sure.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
21 days ago
Reply to  Jim R

It’s gone Woke and hopefully will go broke.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
21 days ago
Reply to  Jim R

Wikipedia didn’t change its definition of vaccine to include the mRNA vaccines. Those vaccines have always been vaccines under the basic definition that has always been on Wikipedia.

(At least that’s what appears to be the case when I look at the history of changes made to the “vaccine” page on Wikipedia. If you know of any change made to include mRNA vaccines please let me know.)

Whether any particular vaccine is safe and effective has nothing to do with whether it can be called a vaccine.

Those who call the mRNA vaccines “gene therapy” are the ones twisting a definition. A therapy is something used to treat someone who has a disease. The mRNA vaccines are a prophylactic, given to people who do not have the disease to help prevent them from suffering from it.

And gene therapy involves changing the DNA of a patient’s cells. The mRNA vaccines don’t do that.

It is indeed important to use words properly. Calling the mRNA vaccines “vaccines” is proper. Calling them “gene therapy” is improper.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
20 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Thank you. Well said.

Sutton Manor
Sutton Manor
20 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

So.. if a vaccine doesn’t stop you getting it.. or passing it on.. or prevents death…
isn’t it just… A treatment,,like penicillin

Sutton Manor
Sutton Manor
20 days ago
Reply to  Sutton Manor

I see Sleepy Joe had got covid.. again.. less than a week after recovering from the last infection..
these vaccines are really working well.. good job the Polio jab was one of the old fashioned vaccines..

Ghozt Wolve
Ghozt Wolve
18 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Look up Asian flu (1957) and Hong Kong flu (1968). WP asserts those epidemics were stopped by vaccines but fails to indicate the number of Americans inoculated. Very strange claim considering that those vaccines were only experimental, and a lot of modern commentary on the “right way” to deal with SARS-2 refers disparagingly to government policy back then as “letting the disease rip through the population”.

William Shaw
William Shaw
21 days ago

Maybe once Biden leaves office the left will revert the definition back to what it was.

R Wright
R Wright
21 days ago

I suppose we are in a post-truth world these days.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
21 days ago

That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.



David Forrester
David Forrester
21 days ago

It does make me wonder if there is any data on individual users and organisations like NGO’s and PR companies edit and control content on Wikipedia and if there should be rules in place for it. Ties in with what Mary Harrington said about manufacturing consensus.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
21 days ago

I spend a fair amount of time editing on Wikipedia. It can be frustrating at times but the process works much better than you might think.

If you go to the “recession” page there now you will see that everything has been sorted. It just took some time and turmoil to get it right.

Wikipedia is an amazing resource I use nearly everyday. We are lucky to have it. I contribute as much as I can to make it better.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
21 days ago

From “The Economist”:

Officially, the decision about whether or not the American economy is in recession belongs to the business-cycle dating committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)… they consider a range of variables beyond GDP, from consumption to industrial production, with a view to idnentifying downturns that are truly spread across the economy.

Time will tell if NBER calls a recession.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
21 days ago

There’s nothing “official” about the NBER committee as far as I can tell. They are a self-appointed group of largely anonymous academic economists who make their completely subjective pronouncement long after it really matters.

The point is that we have been through two quarters of retraction. That says something about what actually happened in a way that can be objectively measured. It means something.

Whether the NBER committee declares we were in a recession during those two quarters is an opinion. It is subjective based on whatever the committee members think. Politics undoubtedly plays a part.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
19 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

“The Economist” did not say that the NBER committee was official, it said that officially the decision about whether the USA is in recession is down to them.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
21 days ago

I am the last one on earth who would support what the current POTUS is doing, or what Wiki does, but to be completely honest, they are correct in this case. Two consecutive quarters of negative growth has never been the only definition of a recession. According to a conservative economist that I have trusted for many years, Brian Wesbury (see link below), he claims that due to pandemic response and the subsequent roller coaster we saw, all traditional measures are not to be applied during this unprecedented scenario. And that includes the absurd claims by Mr. Biden about his part in the recovery.
https://www.ftportfolios.com/Commentary/EconomicResearch/2022/7/28/politics-makes-people-stupid

Cantab Man
Cantab Man
20 days ago

For tyrants, Wikipedia is the perfect source for information and this is a case in point…economic definitions that have been taught in Econ 101 for over 50 years can be modified to something more favorable and republished by the political powers-that-be within 20 seconds.

fgs fsg
fgs fsg
21 days ago

Not sure what the fuss is about in this article. Was wikipedia changed back since this article was written? Was taught as an econ major at university that a recession is generally defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP. Whether something is officially a recession is always been the call of the NBER. Wikipedia states all this right at the top of the page.
Since it appears they didn’t change the definition, I think wikipedia is doing a good job by locking it for edits, as the recession page could potentially be used at this time by either side for their own gain if the wording of recession is changed – either firmly making the case that a recession is definitely 2 consecutive quarters (republican) or loosening that definition (democrat). At the end, it’s not up to armchair economists to decide recessions, but the NBER.

Last edited 21 days ago by fgs fsg
Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
21 days ago
Reply to  fgs fsg

There is nothing official about the NBER committee that calls recessions. NBER is an economic think tank and its president appoints a group of 8 academic economists who deliver their own subjective view on business cycles. You can bet politics plays a part.

Why people call the NBER committee judgments official escapes me. They are anything but.

Last edited 21 days ago by Carlos Danger
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
19 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

You said this before, my reply is the same as before.

Paul Beardsell
Paul Beardsell
13 days ago

What is said about the Wikipedia article is not entirely wrong but gives entirely the wrong impression. This, from the article’s “Talk” (discussion) page is fair and accurate:
Following from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Recession&oldid=1102569366
——-
If you are about to hate-post “The definition of a recession is two quarters of declining GDP!”: the article already says that, so this would be a waste of time unless you have further suggestions for improving the article.
If you are here to complain Wikipedia changed the definition to favor the Biden administration, please don’t, because 1.) the article has mentioned both the “two quarter” and NBER definitions for years, and that hasn’t changed recently, 2.) after discussion by editors from a diversity of political perspectives, the introduction has actually been changed so it emphasizes the “two quarter” definition a little more, which we expect you will find satisfactorily neutral. But feel free to leave a note if you read the article and still have concerns.
Hi, people from online. I’m JPxG. I agree that censorship is a cowardly chickenshit attack on the foundations of free society, that the basic principles of the open Internet are threatened by attempts to rewrite history, and all of that stuff. However, allow me to address a few things:

I read online that Wikipedia changed the definition of a recession.
The thing that is getting shared around everywhere is no longer the case. The sentence “Though there is no global consensus on the definition of a recession, two consecutive quarters of decline in a country’s real gross domestic product is commonly used as a practical definition of a recession” is currently right there in the lead section. Additionally, it wasn’t there for very long to begin with (it was added for the first time a few days ago). The screenshots of the stuff getting removed are out of date.
Okay, so what, someone tried to remove it?
The article always said something about “two down GDP quarters”. The first section of the article, titled “Definition”, has mentioned it since 2011. As far as I can tell, nobody ever messed with this. The entire current dispute is over whether it should say this in the lead paragraph and the definition section, or just in the definition section. Right now, the article gives both that definition and the NBER definition, and takes no position on which is “correct”. The NBER definition is “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the market, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales”.
And now it’s locked?
It is semi-protected for a few days, so in order to edit it you need an account that’s autoconfirmed (one that’s at least four days old and has ten edits). So, for most people reading this, the answer is probably “yes” (although you can make a suggestion at the bottom of this Talk page that will be reviewed by contributors who can make changes to the page if there is a consensus to do so). Starting on August 17, non-autoconfirmed users will be able to edit it again, but their edits will be held for human review before being visible to most readers.
What’s the deal with there being a million edits on this page in one day?
Articles get edited a lot, for all kinds of reasons. If you go to Special:RecentChanges, you will see that about a hundred edits are made every minute. Most of them are stuff like fixing spelling errors, adding/removing hyperlinks, rephrasing sentences, or improving the formatting so the page is easier to read. Oftentimes, people will expand an article that’s already been written, because they found some book or article or paper somewhere that’s got information (for example, last night I went and found out what the last movie was to be released on VHS, and added it to the article because it wasn’t there). The fact that a page is being edited doesn’t itself mean something crazy is going on. It usually means someone is replacing a colon with a semicolon.
How do I see what edits have been made to an article?
You can see every old revision of every Wikipedia article in the “history” tab at the top of each page (for this article’s history you can click here).
Why are there all these administrators saying weird stuff here?
Almost nobody commenting here is an administrator. Most of us are normal contributors. Anyone on here is allowed to just go to talk pages and say stuff. This means that, a lot of the time, some guy will show up on a talk page and start saying ridiculous stuff about how we need to delete every article about a Democrat, or block all Republicans from editing, or whatever. It is just some guy saying stuff. This is not our policy.
Why is Wikipedia paying you to do this stuff?
It isn’t. Wikipedia contributors are not paid employees of Wikipedia, we “do it for free” as they say (some people get secretly paid to write propaganda or spam articles; we delete their stuff and block them).
I heard you guys are all head-over-heels in love with that politician guy.
I have never really been a big fan of politicians in general. I can’t speak for everyone else.
Okay, well, I have some stuff I want to say.
If you want to participate in the discussion regarding what the content of the article should be, you are of course free to do so. An encyclopedia written by millions of people requires a lot of bureaucracy in order to function at all without immediately descending into chaos, though, so I will warn you that it will probably be difficult to participate (especially on a political topic) without a bunch of people saying stuff like “Strike per WP:NPA, WP:NOTFORUM and WP:TPG” unless you are willing to read a lot of boring guidelines beforehand. In general, if your comment is not about improving the Wikipedia article titled “Recession”, it probably does not belong here. jp×g 22:22, 28 July 2022 (UT

Eric M
Eric M
21 days ago

Hello all-
This piece is incorrect regarding the removal of negative growth for two consecutive quarters as a definition for “recession”.
The author likely based this piece on a version of Wikipedia’s “Recession” article as it existed for a moment after some editor had removed that content. It was likely restored within minutes. Wikipedia is a collaborative work in progress–yes, one that these days does not follow its own stated policy of neutrality–and there has been a flurry of back-and-forth editing on that article in recent days.
There is currently a good section on the article’s talk page that explains the situation:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Recession#ATTENTION_NEW_VISITORS_TO_THIS_PAGE
Eric

Last edited 21 days ago by Eric M
John 0
John 0
21 days ago
Reply to  Eric M

Interesting…

John Tyler
John Tyler
21 days ago

Silly article! The so-called ‘definition’ of ‘two negative consecutive quarters of growth’ has never been more than a rule of thumb. Wikipedia has merely chosen to be more accurate in its entry. As for governments, they virtually never use the R word; it’s like self-immolation! On the other hand, opposition politicians and the media love to use the ‘two quarters’ ploy as it is simple and sounds official. In reality, no economist of any repute would describe it as a definition and it has never been an official one.

Jim R
Jim R
21 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

Silly comment. Even if it is only a ‘rule of thumb’, it was ‘the rule of thumb’ until the gaslighters started their mischief. Tucker Carlson has a great bit where he dug up past quotes invoking ‘the rule’ from everyone suddenly claiming its not the rule in the last two weeks. Truly shameless.

John Tyler
John Tyler
21 days ago
Reply to  Jim R

The “two quarters” idea came from economist Julius Shiskind in 1974. As head of the US Bureau of Statistics he wanted to give a simple guide to the public. It was never a definition. He provided several other examples of common features of recessions. None of these was ever intended to be a definition.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
21 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

Perhaps it’s not so much that the definition changed, but more the timing of said change. We are after all in a period where dictionary publishers are quietly changing the definition of words to suit the current political dogma.

John 0
John 0
21 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

If you want to delve further – the two quarters definition was introduced so that they didn’t have to say they were in recession after one quarter (which used to be the definition – yes, I’m that old).
So it seems that definitions have always been flexible so that governments can hide their mistakes!

John Tyler
John Tyler
21 days ago
Reply to  John 0

The “two quarters” idea came from economist Julius Shiskind in 1974. As head of the US Bureau of Statistics he wanted to give a simple guide to the public. It was never a definition. He provided several other examples of common features of recessions. None of these was ever intended to be a definition.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
21 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

Not much point in having a subjective definition. Many countries (the UK included) use the two-quarters rule. The NBER committee judgment on recessions is no more official than the two-quarters rule.

Last edited 21 days ago by Carlos Danger
Sutton Manor
Sutton Manor
20 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

So.. that means that the U.K. considers the US is in recession..
problem solved

Sutton Manor
Sutton Manor
20 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

So… interested to see if it’s nothing to do with 2 quarters of negative growth.. when did the U.K. last have a recession.. especially as the most recent recession only lasted 2 quarters.